Striking workers lock up Batangas feed mill
Protesting workers locked up a feed mill in Batangas City as they went on strike on Monday to demand regularization and their immediate return to work after supposedly being dismissed illegally.
Operations at Soro-soro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC), a multipurpose cooperative with feed milling as a major business, were paralyzed as workers on Tuesday stood their ground, preventing other employees from entering the plant.
The strike started at 3:40 a.m. on Monday, with the workers, most of them magsusunong (laborers), locking up the gate and setting up metal barriers on a road in Barangay Soro-soro Ibaba.
Feliciano Orihuela Jr., director of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCM in the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) region, said negotiations between the workers’ group, Samahang Manggagawa sa SIDC-Liga ng Manggagawa para sa Regular na Hanapbuhay (Sama-SIDC-Liga), and the employment agency, DCMM Manpower Services, have yet to arrive at an amicable settlement.
“We are still trying to come up with an acceptable formula for the parties,” he said.
Supt. Barnard Dasugo, Batangas City police director, said they were also monitoring the situation to prevent the outbreak of violence.
In a telephone interview, Marvin Ramos, Sama president, said the protest stemmed from the illegal dismissal of a worker, Ismael Dimaano, on June 17.
Dimaano, he said, was vocal about the unjust deductions in their salaries, among them a weekly P500 “administration fee” to cover for electricity and water use in the plant. Payment for the workers’ safety shoes and uniforms were also deducted from their salaries, he said.
Ramos said the workers protested Dimaano’s dismissal, but they were told that they, too, had been fired as of June 20.
Established in 1969, SIDC employs about 284 people for its business activities that include contract-growing, loans, cable television and internet, and a gasoline station, among others. It has enlisted more than 8,000 members, mostly residents in Batangas and other provinces in Luzon.
The management of the cooperative is under Rep. Rico Geron of the party-list group Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (Agap).
The Inquirer on Tuesday tried to seek comments from SIDC, but its personnel said Geron was out the country.
Officials of DCMM were also unavailable to answer questions on the labor strike, said its employee, Jinky Celemin.
“My children had been missing school because I couldn’t give them baon (school allowance) anymore. This is our only means of living,” Ramos said.
A father of three, Ramos, 36, said most of the workers had been with SIDC for at least 30 years. They earned an average of P350 a day for carrying 8,000 sacks of animal feed, with each sack weighing 50 to 100 kilograms.
Ramos said the feed mill’s 70 workers were initially hired by SIDC, until they were placed under the management of DCMM in 2009.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.